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Approaching Assessment Design

Regardless of the modality of your course delivery (remote, online, or in-person), choose a range of thoughtfully designed assessment strategies that provide opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning in diverse ways. Assessment plays an integral role in defining and supporting student learning within your course. Well-designed assessments allow you to ascertain students’ ability to meet the student learning outcomes and to express their understanding of knowledge and skill development. Assessments are also a great way to determine where the gaps are in your students’ understanding of course content.

By building clear alignment between your student learning outcomes and your course assessments you are able to:

  • Streamline assessment so that expectations of student learning within the course are clear;
  • Build strong alignment between course expectations and program expectations;
  • Clarify the role of assessment within a course to ameliorate student questions and confusion;
  • Clarify course related learning in the context of the program and future career paths; and
  • Build assessment strategies that prioritize essential course learning and offer realistic grading workloads.

The following questions can assist in making decisions regarding how to approach assessment:

  • What level of access will my students have to the information they need to be successful in their assessment?
  • Can assessment be "chunked" into smaller components to make it more manageable and offer more opportunities for formative feedback?
  • How can I build flexibility into my assessment structure to allow student choice in making decisions about their learning (e.g. “best 5-of-7,” multiple attempts, flexible hand-in dates, etc.)?
  • What role does each form of assessment play in students achieving essential learning outcomes?
  • Does my assessment structure allow for formative feedback to assist students in developing their learning before summative assessment is held?
  • Can I integrate peer and self-assessment activities of course performance/progress with justification that aligns with student learning outcomes?

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How Do I Create Authentic Assessments?

Steps to Create an Authentic Assessment

While traditional tests and quizzes generally ask that students recall information, authentic assessment engages students in a higher level of learning, where they are actively participating in situations that often mirror realistic situations. For example, if a student is in a business marketing course, they could develop a marketing plan for a business in the community. The assessment focuses not only on performance over memorization, but also acts as a learning tool for students rather than a measurement exercise. Find examples and resources on a variety of authentic assessments in the Teaching section of this guide. 

To create an authentic assessment Jon Mueller outlines four key steps:

1. Outline Your Objectives

Rooted in the principles of backwards design, your first step will be to consider what you want your students to know or do following a specific class or lesson. For example, your objective might be that students apply three distinct lenses when critiquing an article. A good objective is measurable and observable, which will enable you to move to the next step.

2. Determine the Activity or Tasks

Next, identify what activity will enable students to demonstrate their subject matter expertise. The activity should resemble a real-world situation to be as authentic and engaging as possible, as this is where the learning activity becomes meaningful to the student rather than an exercise in memorization. As students complete the activity, they relate it to their lives.

3. Specify the Criteria

Consider what good performance looks like. What are the characteristics of good performance? What criteria will prove students’ understanding, and what does the final product look like? Once you have the criteria, you can develop the rubric.

4. Develop the Rubric

When developing the rubric, you will consider two or more levels of performance for each criterion. For instance, your criteria might be “fully demonstrated,” “partly demonstrated” or “did not demonstrate.” When using the rubric, you will include feedback to the student, which will enable them to reflect on their current level of understanding and help them to improve in the future.

Find examples and resources on a wide variety of authentic assessments in the Teaching section of this guide. 

Consider Scaffolding Your Assessment

Authentic assessment is often linked with several opportunities for students to practice. You should consider scaffolding opportunities within the course so that students can gain ongoing feedback and adjust as they learn. This will also give students time to adjust to this new type of assessment, particularly where they may be used to more traditional forms such as quizzes or tests.

This section was modified from Niagara College’s Centre for Academic Excellence, Design, Develop and Deliver: A Guide to Effective Online Teaching, which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International License.

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What Do I Need to Consider when Developing Assessments?

The Importance of Choice

Offering learners some elements of choice within their assignment structure helps students take ownership of their learning. This approach provides flexibility for a multiplicity of learning styles that allows students to best demonstrate their achievement of learning outcomes. When it comes to assessment, choice can be developed through a variety of different practices. For example, you can incorporate multiple hand-in times for a particular assessment to allow students to fit their assessment into their study schedule, you can offer several iterations of a single assessment and take the best grades from a limited number of instances, or you can offer students flexibility in how their work is demonstrated by allowing them choice in the method they use to perform the assessment. Incorporating low-stake assessments throughout the course allows space for students to practice application. Scaffolding assessment allows students to build their skills and knowledge incrementally and provides multiple opportunities for formative feedback throughout the activities provided in the course or unit of instruction.

Here are some things to consider when designing assessments:

  • What assessment best aligns with course learning outcomes? Program learning outcomes?
  • What domain of learning are you hoping to assess? Is it their attitude, cognitive, or psychomotor abilities?
  • What are you measuring to gather evidence of learning?

Assessment methods should align with your teaching and learning activities, so try to design your assessments to allow students to practice and improve. Providing feedback and opportunities for students to revise their work helps to build their skills and offers flexibility for diverse learners.

Student Workload and Getting the Balance Right

While the advantages of incorporating low-stakes or scaffolded assessments can be substantial for students, it is important that they are not overused. Multiple low-stakes assignments with frequent due dates can lead to a conveyer belt of assessment that leaves students, and yourself, exhausted with constant “important” targets. It is important to be practical regarding workload — for you and your students. Have you included so many assessments that students can’t keep up or deeply engage with course content to develop higher level outcomes? Remember that students are taking more than just your class, and are juggling multiple priorities at school, work, and home. 

Have you provided balance and fairness in assessing? Is the workload of an assignment commensurate to its weight within a course? Asking students to write a 20-page paper that is only worth 5% of the overall course grade signals a mismatch in the importance of the assignment in the overall course. Students are strategic about where they will focus their efforts and may opt not to put much effort into a substantial paper that has been weighted so low. Making sure that the value of your assessment matches your expectations within the assignment is important for delivering meaningful results.

Thinking about timing is important when considering assessment. Try to avoid stacking up multiple large assessments at the end of the term or having all due at close to the same time. It is worthwhile discussing assessment timing with colleagues at a program level to get a sense of a students’ overall workload across the program to try and harmonize due dates as much as possible. Talking directly to students about the timing of their other assessments helps you schedule due dates (and any flexibility around them) while displaying empathy for your students’ overall workload. Consider structuring your course to deliver feedback earlier and consistently to help students know how they are faring and understand where they can improve.

Types of Assessment

Including a range of assessment types which measure outcome attainment in different ways allows more students to succeed. Students can better demonstrate their learning using their strengths: some are strong in written work, others prefer multiple choice exams, and others do better at presentations, problem-solving or project-based approaches. This is not to say that students should each choose their own assessments types, or only be able to submit written work; your choice of assessment should have some internal consistency as students should be working together to assist each other across the course with developing the skills and knowledge that is necessary to be successful. Find examples and resources on a variety of authentic assessments in the Teaching section of this guide. 

Diagnostic Assessments

Diagnostic assessments assist in developing an understanding about students’ prior learning so that you are aware of the skills and knowledge they are entering your course with. These are done either prior to the course or in the first few weeks so that you can make adjustments that backfill any discrepancies between your expectations and students’ current knowledge.

  • Risk level: informal, ungraded.
  • Timing: beginning of the course.
  • What is being assessed: prior learning and existing concepts; misconceptions.

Formative Assessments

Formative assessments occur throughout the term and provide students feedback on their progression before having high-stakes summative evaluations. The information gained from formative assessment is beneficial to students because it allows students to reflect on their learning, understand their development, and learn from iterating and refining assignments throughout the course. This same formative assessment is critical for instructors to regularly check for gaps in student learning so that they can be addressed before summative evaluation.

  • Risk level: informal, or low-risk with feedback.
  • Timing: during the learning process.
  • What is being assessed: monitoring the learning process, providing feedback and improvement opportunities.

Summative Assessments

Summative assessment occurs primarily at the end of the course in the form of exams or capstone projects. It assesses student’s knowledge and skills at the exit the course and benchmarks student progression during the program. Summative evaluation are high-risk high-stress moments for students, and so it is important that the formative assessment throughout the course has been building towards this assessment in a clear way. This will be discussed in more detail below.

  • Risk Level: formal grade, high-stakes.
  • Timing: end of a unit, concept or course.
  • What is being assessed: evaluating students against a standard or benchmark.

Student Learning Outcomes

Learning outcomes define the purpose of a course. They offer clarity for students about the learning, priorities, and direction for the course. Every piece of a course, from its instructional practices to its assessments should focus on these outcomes and begin in the earliest stages of the course development process. Be sure to not only build but also communicate this alignment to students so that they understand the purpose of the course and how it supports their education and progression through the program overall.


Groupwork is a powerful tool for students to engage with one another and foster community within a course. Groupwork has the potential of ameliorating some of the isolation students feel and allows them collaborative ownership and accountability for their learning.

Approaches to Groupwork

Not only does groupwork offer the opportunity to strengthen community, it inherently develops important transferable social skills and experience navigating group dynamics.

When approaching groupwork it is important to consider the following:

  • Clearly articulate the expected outcomes from the group process and include, if possible, information on how group work will assist with outcome attainment.
  • Develop clear ground rules for how groups will function and encourage students to negotiate group contracts that facilitate more productive group development.
  • Explain group conflicts will be managed. What kind of process will you employ so that students have the tools to resolve some conflicts themselves, and knowing when and how they can escalate issues to you?
  • Think about group work as a development process and consider assigning increasingly complex tasks to the group so that they can safely build competencies.
  • Define how the group process assists with attainment of stated course learning outcomes.
  • Consider creating opportunities for individual reflection of learning from the group process after it is completed.
  • Develop consistent processes by which you will check in with groups to see how they are progressing.

Group Contracts

One tool that can alleviate student tension in group working environments is the development of a group contract. Group contracts outline the general rules about how a group will function, make decisions, and share work to ensure that products are collaborative and that individual members participate equitably. A group contract should contain the following:

  • Names and contact information of group members;
  • Expectations of preparedness for group meetings;
  • Agreements on how work will be assigned and supported with the group;
  • A process for addressing group disputes;
  • A process for how feedback on individual group members will be delivered; and
  • Space to sign to acknowledge agreement with the contract.

If you develop weekly tasks for groups to complete, have students rotate through the role of discussion facilitator within the group roles each week, which is especially useful in large classes where you as the instructor are unable to be present in each discussion. This student can be responsible for keeping the discussion flowing and focussed on the goals.

One way that students can select the weeks when they will be facilitators is using Doodle polls. When creating a Doodle poll, make sure to select the option to allow each participant to choose a single timeslot for the week they’ll lead. It will be helpful to keep students on track by posting each week’s facilitator into the MyLS content or discussion boards. You may also consider having this facilitation be a graded component of the course.

You may consider letting students choose their own groups for various projects; however, this is fraught with complications. Inevitably when students select their own groups, some students will be marginalized in the process. Therefore, you may consider assigning groups yourself while allowing students to choose topics for groupwork. Groups work best when limited to 5–7 students per group.

Peer Evaluation of Group Projects

When designing group projects, it is worthwhile to consider incorporating formal peer evaluations so that students’ contributions to the group are incorporated in the grading process. This can be assisted by providing a rubric to foster consistent peer evaluations of participation, quality, and quantity of work throughout the group process so that individuals know how their contributions are being received. A good strategy to alleviate concerns around peer grading is to encourage differentiation in grading through only allowing students to allocate a single grade once (one 10, one 9, etc). This forces them to differentiate between their peers and leads to be reflective grading outcomes. Peer evaluations can assist by:

  • Revealing participation and contribution issues within the group;
  • Making students aware that they will be evaluated for their contribution to the group, and not just for the end product;
  • Providing formative feedback to you and your students about how they can improve before the delivery of the final group project.

Learn more about peer evaluation in TEI's recorded webinar, Peer Assessment to Promote Learning.

Assessing through Final Projects and Exams

The pivot in 2020 to remote learning highlighted the overreliance on finals and exams, and it offered an opportunity to re-imagine our assessment practices while continuing to ensure they are robust and relevant measures of student learning outcomes. Increased reliance on the use of academic integrity tools and technologies for examinations in the online environment have foregrounded concerns from students and faculty alike about significant considerations, including:

  • matters of equity, access and accessibility
  • data privacy and security
  • computing software and hardware requirements
  • reliable access to high-speed internet service
  • reliability of global Software as a Service (SaaS) provision
  • increased complexity, anxiety and stress

While final examinations have been a staple of higher education, faculty may wish to seek creative approaches to finals and exams that are focussed on student outcomes and skill development, and are realistic to mark within an already heavy workload, can provide opportunities to measure student progression outside of the anxiety and issues surrounding technologies like. Approaches like this also make it possible to move your final assessment away from techniques that prioritize measurement of knowledge development, to ones that instead measure the application of that knowledge in more complex ways. 

For example, many higher education institutions, across disciplines, are adopting assessment approaches such as open book and take-home exams. These options instead focus on higher order thinking about the broad, overarching connections throughout the course. Oral examinations are also viable techniques in smaller class settings. You could also look at integrating a capstone-focused assessment in your course that allows students to bring all their learning together in some creative project. See the Alternative Assessment section of this guide for potential assessment choices that alleviate the pressure and anxiety that exams bring and still ensure that you have meaningful, outcome focused, authentic assessment in your course.

If you do choose an exam proctored through technological means for your course, it is important to ensure that you:

  • Outline why our academic community values academic integrity so highly and define our expectations of our students to act with integrity in all aspects of their academic work.
  • Use tools and technologies that are centrally provided and supported by your university and observe the guidelines for use. (Review Laurier’s Assessment Tools and Technologies Guide.)
  • Discuss the technology(ies) you have selected with your students in advance and orient them to the steps required for proper use.
  • Make a plan for how students with accommodations will be supported.


The following resources can support Laurier instructors in planning for their final exams:

What are Some Alternatives to Single High-Stakes Exams and Assessments? 

The fundamental concern when considering alternative assessment is to ensure that it is assessing the stated course learning outcomes in order to prioritize​ student attainment of necessary learning. ​​Consider using another​ pedagogical method to assess students' achievement of stated course learning outcomes, or consider approaching course assessment in a different way that still prioritize stated course learning outcomes, such as:

  • Decrease the weight of high-stakes exams and consider assessing students' achievement of stated course learning outcomes based primarily on prior work.
  • Implement self-assessment of course performance/progress with justification that aligns with stated course learning outcomes.​

This section provides guidance and resources on alternative assessments to consider if you:

If you typically administer timed high-stakes midterms or final exams, consider: 

Take Home or Open Book Exams

The current exam assessment is moved into a new, asynchronous delivery mode where students receive the exam through MyLS and submit their completed exam into the course Dropbox. Students will have access to the course materials, but will be required to apply, analyze, and evaluate the materials in creating their responses. Open book assessments allow for a greater integration of course learning.

Using Bloom’s Taxonomy, evaluate higher order cognitive skills, such as analyze or evaluate, rather than those skills focused on defining or remembering, which only require students to identify a single correct answer. For example, instead of asking “What are the three branches of the federal government?”, you could instead ask, “Should we have government?” (Svoboda 1971 in Bengtsson 2019).

Exam approaches can also be creative, including asking students to build Timelines or Concept Mapping to demonstrate understanding of course materials.



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Two-Stage Collaborative Testing 

In this assessment, students first take an exam, test, or quiz as individuals and submit their individual work. Students then retake the exam, test, or quiz in groups of three or four. This method allows for collaborative approaches to learning and offers students the opportunity to discuss and debate answers immediately with their peers. Two-Stage testing reinforces learning as students leave assessment with the correct answer and have talked through why.

  • Designed for large enrollment classes, this method allows for collaborative approaches to learning by offering students the opportunity to discuss and debate answers immediately with their peers.
  • Helps alleviate student anxiety and helps them to see alternate perspectives during discussion and debate/argue their point of view.
  • Incentivizes students to study and learn to identify what is important when studying. Academically stronger students also help to lift academically weaker students in terms of testing.

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Assessing Through Low-stakes Quizzes using Technology 

Low-stakes technologically-based quizzes can be integrated to support student self-assessment on recall and understanding, while providing instructors with feedback on sticking points in the material of each module. Developing tests to enhance learning is a research-supported approach that can be implemented in large classes using low-stakes quizzes and sharing with students the purpose and benefits of this approach. Instructors should be careful to avoid overloading students with low-stakes assessments and reflect on getting the balance right in student workload. Consider re-developing multiple choice questions with problem-based learning and higher order thinking approaches, like Alonso, Stella, and Galabovsky describe in this large-enrollment UBC Biology course.

Quizzes can be asynchronous through MyLS, live using iClicker or Zoom polling, and students can help design multiple choice questions to add more higher-order thinking to these assessments using tools like PeerWise.

Asynchronous Quizzes on MyLS

  • Using MyLS Quizzes, a question bank can be developed, where the order of questions and their answer can be randomized.
  • MyLS has options to allow students the opportunity to drop 1 or 2 quizzes
  • Quiz results can be automatically tied to the MyLS grade book.
  • “No review” approaches can undermine best practices in test taking and fair assessment, which promote the ability for students to review answers and correct or skip questions to return to them later before submitting a test.

Examples and Resources

Live Quizzes using iCLicker / CRS Systems

A Classroom Response System (CRS) is technology that promotes and implements active learning by allowing students to participate in quick polling and low-stakes assessment during synchronous sessions. As polling is conducted synchronously, results can be viewed in real time and can follow a question period for review.

Questions can be used for recall, application, and conceptual understanding, and make students active participants in the learning process, creating a more dynamic and interactive classroom experience which can be enjoyable and fun for both the instructor and students.

iClicker is Laurier’s chosen CRS. With software like iClicker Cloud, instructors can access study guides that are generated from class polls, and students can use the devices they already have access too. If grading isn’t required, Zoom’s polling option can be used for check-ins and quick, informal responses. Zoom polling reports aren’t linked to the MyLS gradebook, but instructors can still use them to receive immediate, ungraded formative feedback. 

Student-Created Multiple Choice Questions: PeerWise

When students are asked to create, explain, and evaluate multiple choice questions based on course materials, they have an opportunity to demonstrate higher order cognitive learning outcomes. PeerWise can facilitate this assessment strategy. The technology supports student-led course test creation as well as peer-to-peer collaborative learning through comparison, evaluation, and feedback. A Login and Course ID are created to connect students to one another. A PeerWise orientation session early in the term can support student understanding of process, purpose, and associated learning outcomes.

Using PeerWise, students engage with the assessment in three parts that can each be associated with a rubric evaluative component: Creation, Answer, Evaluation.

  • Create: Students first design multiple choice questions, including meaningful distractors, and explain their thinking connected to the learning outcomes of that module or lesson. Students can insert images or symbols into their questions. Students can then share their questions with their peers to make a test bank of questions for the lesson or module.
  • Answer: Students access the peer-created questions through searchable tags and answer any selection of questions they choose. Instructors can set minimum numbers of questions that students are expected to answer.
  • Evaluate: Students assess the peer questions they answer by rating the quality and can contribute constructive comments including correcting answers, commenting on clarity, or improved distractors.
    Students can earn both Answer Scores, which are based on their correct answers to the peer questions, and Reputational Scores, which are based on the value of their contributions. These scores can be used to support evidence for evaluation. Instructors can also evaluate other usage measures provided by PeerWise such as the number of questions, number of correct answers, number of evaluations, and time spent on the activities.

Examples and Resources

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If you typically administer single high-stakes end-of-term assessments, consider: 

Scaffolding Assignments 

Larger projects, cases, problems or assignments are broken up and organized into smaller progressive learning activities (“chunked”) and build toward a final summative assessment. This approach allows for a supportive structure of learning that is based on opportunities for students to work on smaller low-stakes progressive assignments (e.g., annotated bibliography, literature review, research questions or outlines, early drafts).

Feedback is provided on these lower-stakes assessments so students can develop deeper learning before a final summative assessment, such as a case study, research essay, poster, policy brief, or infographic.

Scaffolding develops a multi-staged approach towards a final summative assignment that provides students a developmental ‘path’ of learning and opportunities for improvement through feedback and assessment. Research Essays can begin with an Annotated Bibliography, or draft submissions with peer feedback. Policy recommendations can begin with a Fact Sheet.

Resources in this Guide

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Real World Problem-solving, Data Analysis, or Case Study Projects 

Case studies provide an opportunity for instructors to prepare a real-world problem or simulated scenario for students to problem solve. Case study assignments can be short-structured (“mini”) cases for single-lesson activities or long-structured that can be scaffolded into various report components, such as: identification of problem, analysis of options, recommendations, etc. Real world case studies can be introduced by Laurier’s Industry or Community Partners for students to solve. Solutions can be presented back to the class or the partners themselves. Connect with Community and Workplace Partnerships for more information about these opportunities.

Groupwork opportunities:

  • Students in groups engage in collaborative learning with clear roles and expectations of group members clarified at the beginning of the courses, such as with a group contract.
  • Roles can be based on different staged report-based tasks of research, writing, editing, presenting or can be based on Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) model where students rotate roles (facilitator, spokesperson, recorder, reflector).

More Resources in this Guide 

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Reflection Papers 

Reflective practice is an important activity that encourages the deepening of students’ self and social awareness as well as understanding of academic concepts. This assessment is a “meaning-making process” that helps students set goals, use what they have learned in the past to inform future action and consider the real-life implications of their thinking.

While typical in experiential learning, scaffolded reflection papers can be developed in any course to encourage a holistic approach to learning, including demonstrating both cognitive (applying, analyzing learning experiences) and affective domain learning outcomes (challenging personal assumptions, understanding values) as well as clarifying professional competencies and engaging in meta-cognition (Coulson and Harvey, 2012).

For example, at the end of a course, project, work term or volunteer experience, a backward-looking reflection is an effective way for students to take stock of their experience and find meaningful connections to learning outcomes.

  • Reflections can be short (1-3 pages) and often collected at 2 or more places in the course (the beginning, middle, end) to support student’s developmental learning throughout the course.
  • The “What? So What? Now What?” approach (Rolfe, et al 2001) can help to clearly format and prompt student reflections where students describe what they have learned (synthesis), explain its significance and contextualize its meaning, and make connections to application and growth.
  • Reflection through Self, Civic, or Academic lenses supports students in articulating their learning, and these approaches also can serve as a foundation for evaluation (e.g. the DEAL model as described by Ash and Clayton 2009).



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Smaller Assignments

Small written assignments are typically 250 to 500 words and require students to articulate or apply their understanding of class materials. When more than one small assignment is incorporated into class assessment, instructors can provide students with an opportunity to not only receive feedback, but also to implement learning moments and improve. Consider student workload balance when deciding on the number and weight of assignments so as to not overload students with low-stakes assessment.

Some approaches to smaller assignments include:

  • Summarizing the main points of a scholarly or media article
  • Evaluating or discussing the pros and cons of arguments made by scholars or presented in media
  • Class reading responses
  • Applying course learning to identify relevant information, analyze, or address problems in authentic assessments (Create a Fact Sheet guide link)
  • Applying course concepts to media articles, documentaries, podcasts or video segments
  • Follow a media story and write discussion posts or a blog about it
More Resources in this Guide

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If you're ready to try creative or peer-based models of assessment, consider: 

Creative Assessments 

Creative, non-traditional assessments, such as concept mapping, podcasts, and prototyping can challenge students to present information in a variety of ways that demonstrate new and creative skills. Moving beyond traditional written or exam-based assessments, for example, helps to facilitate deeper learning among students where “creativity can involve self-expression and the arts, imagination, producing something original, working across disciplines, demonstrating openness to experiences, or complex problem solving” (McWilliam & Dawson, 2008; Duenkel 2013). As some creative assessments may rely on access to specific technology or mobility, they may not be a best fit for all students. Consider the importance of student choice in assessment design as you consider some or all of the following ideas to ensure that you balance creativity with inclusion in assessment design.

Ideas and Examples

While the ideas and examples here are presented as discrete approaches, instructors can consider combining assessment strategies or offering varied processes and opportunities for students to demonstrate their achievement of learning outcomes in diverse ways. Each assessment type links to the complete overview with examples and resources.  

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Designing for Student Choice

Give students some control over the format of their work

We often default to particular assignment types in our classes and expect that all students will show what they know in the same way. Allowing students more options to show what they know allows them to demonstrate their knowledge in a way that works well for them. For instance, if the focus is to have students plan a process, allow them the flexibility to choose to write a paper, develop a presentation, make a video, create a poster, or design an infographic to deliver their process, so they can demonstrate what they know in a format that works for them. The fundamental focus on developing a process is the same, but students have choice in how they demonstrate it.

Give students some control over the topic of their work

When possible, allow students to choose how they focus their work to help them build a sense of ownership and increase their interest and engagement. If the focus of an assignment is on a particular kind of output (such as writing a report or creating a business plan), allowing students to choose a topic of interest for the report or a kind of business they might want to start one day can give them more control while still demonstrating that they can do the necessary work.

Ways to implement choice in your assignment design

  • Students choose the weighting structure of their assessments at the start of the term. For example, choosing to divide weights evenly or weighing certain assessment activities more heavily than others (Rideout 2017).
  • Students choose to demonstrate learning outcomes in equivalent diverse assessment formats, such as a presentation, infographic, podcast, essay, or 3D model (Irwin and Hepplestone 2012).
  • Students choose between multiple assessment submissions that are ongoing throughout the term, for example completing 2 of 3 discussion posts, tutorial engagements, written reflections, or reading response papers.
  • Students choose their own assessment scheme, combining choice in formats, individual or group projects, and in weighting structures (Jopp & Cohen 2020).

Examples and Resources

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Peer Evaluation

As a comparative process, peer evaluation can encourage students to be analytical and critical of themselves and others in a way that contributes to improved student performance. Peer assessment can be used to evaluate a range of course activities.

Peer evaluations can be formative assessments where students provide feedback to one another’s work at an early stage, such as on a draft before final submission, or it can be a summative assessment where students grade each other’s work as part of the final mark for the assignment. Giving students an opportunity to have multiple peers offer them feedback provides students with differing perspectives to develop their writing and communication skills.

For scaffolded assignments, peer evaluation can be used to assess first drafts of work, leaving the final summative assessment for the instructor. Instructors can also grade the peer assessments to form part of a student’s mark.

Using PeerMark on MyLS allows students to anonymously assess each other’s work. Students can be assigned 2-3 papers to anonymously assess and then each student receives feedback from more than one reviewer. Receiving feedback from multiple peers as well as the instructor can enhance student improvement and learning (Cho and MacArthur 2010).

Examples and Resources 

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Accommodations for Tests and Final Exams

Having a disability does not imply that the essential requirements of any course should be modified, or that a student should be marked differently from other students. To do so would undermine the integrity of the course. The challenge is to find creative ways for faculty to teach and for students to learn the material – in order for the student to demonstrate his or her knowledge like any other student.

Students with accessible needs should continue to have access to the same accommodations and supports they would receive if writing an in-class midterm or final. Common accommodations include:

  • extra time
  • assistive technology (screen readers, speech-to-text, etc.)
  • breaks
  • access to pre-approved memory aid / formula sheet
  • access to scrap paper
  • spell check

Many instructors implement timed online assessments with variable duration, and Accessible Learning recommends that accommodated time be added to all assessments on MyLS and any other learning platform. Faculty can also follow a universal design approach by creating short quizzes with additional time added in for all students. An example would be providing all students 20 minutes to write a quiz, which may only take 10 minutes to complete.


The following resource can support Laurier instructors with accommodations for tests and exams:

Academic Integrity and Assessment

The integrity of your students' work within their assessments is a core concern that needs to be carefully considered. Certain assessment types, such as exams and written work, lend themselves more easily to issues of misconduct. We have all heard stories of extreme cases of academic misconduct, but it is important to remember that most issues of misconduct are learning opportunities for students, and stem from a lack of clarity around needs and expectations of themselves and of the course. Coordinated misconduct also, in its own way, telegraphs the sense of student confusion around expectations and how to prepare themselves adequately for their assessment. The underlying cause in many cases is fear and confusion. It is important to hear these messages and look at how your assessments are structured and whether they clearly communicate your expectations of performance to students. Embedding tools into your course that define what academic integrity looks like can help build this clarity, as will having conversations with your students and showing them what you expect in terms of engagement. Classroom contracts can be useful here as well.

Whilst academic integrity and misconduct are extremely important issues in higher education, how we talk about them and how we educate students about expected behaviour are a fundamental part of ensuring professional outcomes. When discussing academic integrity with students it is important to use positive language and focus on the expected behaviours in a supportive way to keep students on track to success. Approaching integrity conversations in a negative way creates a perception that they are collectively not trusted. Beginning the conversation with a lack of trust makes it more difficult to have productive conversations around academic integrity in a way that leads to understanding.

Positioning academic integrity as an important part of learning within your course and approaching it collaboratively with your students can assist with building both trust around the conversation and an understanding of behaviour expectations.

Responding to Academic Misconduct

The following is the process for responding to academic misconduct for any instructor at Laurier:

  1. If you suspect academic misconduct you first need to contact the relevant administrator within your academic unit.
  2. The relevant administrator or instructor will then notify the student (s) in writing of the suspected misconduct and may request a meeting to discuss the issue.
  3. Once the case has been considered it will either:
    1. Be closed, if no misconduct has been found or if student(s) could not have reasonably known that misconduct had occurred.
    2. Be formally sent on to the relevant administrator if misconduct has been determined to have occurred.
  4. Instructor submits Allegation of Academic Misconduct Form to the relevant administrator and student.
  5. The relevant administrator will consult the Central Registry to ascertain whether the student has a prior record of academic misconduct, and the student has ten working days to provide additional information regarding the misconduct charge.
  6. In situations where this is a first academic misconduct charge, the relevant administrator will determine the required penalty for the action.
  7. In situations where there are prior records of academic misconduct, the information will be sent to the Dean of the academic unit for investigation and final penalty.

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Internal Support Resources



Developing Higher Level Cognitive Skills as Learning Outcomes

In order to approach selecting and redeveloping assessment strategies, consider rethinking learning outcomes that support a deeper approach to learning by moving “up" Bloom’s hierarchy of learning to higher-order-thinking, such as Apply, Analyze, Evaluate, and Create (Krathwohl and Anderson 2001​).

Studies in large class pedagogy have shown that incorporating higher order thinking to achieve deep learning can be possible with intentionally designed learning outcomes and aligned assessments (Hobbins et al Aug. 2020).

Working with Digital Knowledge and Student Collaboration

​Understanding the current context of student access to knowledge resources in higher education as one that has transitioned from knowledge scarcity to one of knowledge abundance in the digital age can support new thinking in assessment design (Boyd 2011 in Stewart 2015). Students’ access to knowledge through open and institutional digital resources can be seen and used as an asset rather than a challenge to maintaining academic integrity (Stewart 2020). By leveraging a digital knowledge environment, instructors have an opportunity to both align assessments with learning outcomes and design activities that are “authentic, real world, and relevant” to better inspire and motivate students with both challenging and interesting content (Meyers and Nulty 2009).

Alongside the recognition of knowledge abundance, assuming that students are in contact with one another in a digital social network can support effective re-evaluation of assessment design. Anticipating students will share their knowledge, questions and materials can be turned into an asset in planning collaborative assignments using digital sharing tools that facilitate group projects, discussions, and mutual support in learning. Rather than thinking of sharing knowledge as a challenge to academic integrity, instructors can use this information to understand the limits of reusing assignments and prepared test banks in providing students with meaningful opportunities to demonstrate their learning (Eaton 2021). Instructors can facilitate connections between students using equitable and accessible platforms (e.g. collaborative PowerPoint, Word or Google Docs) as a part of assessment design.

Working with these practices utilizes the advantages of the digital knowledge abundance and student collaboration in assessment design to develop opportunities for deeper learning. Students are encouraged to work together, to develop digital literacy and communication skills, and engage in real world research and problem solving or creating materials in the application and demonstration of knowledge of the course content.

The development of digital literacy and communication skills as well as larger goals of digital citizenship enrich students and embed core life skills for the digital age.

Instructional Support for Large Classes

  • ​Educational technologies such as Grade Scope and the MyLS system​ support the access and management of assessment documentation with multiple instructional assistants.
  • Instructors of large classes require additional instructional support from teaching assistants, grading assistants, and course managers who can support effective distribution of assessments so that students can access meaningful feedback and reliance on technology facilitated assessment with automatic grading can be reduced. Please check with your Program or Faculty about requests for supports.
  • Developing a clear rubric is also an effective approach to coordinating multiple graders as well as informing students of instructor expectations. Audio feedback can also be an effective alternative to written feedback for students.
  • Laurier’s Library Services and Student Academic Support teams can also support instructors in assessment development through in-class workshops, assessment guidelines support, assignment worksheets, as well as tutorial videos.

Large Class Assessment Resources and Examples

More assessment resources in this Guide

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